Innovation Catalyst ventures forward educating investors and entrepreneurs

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Gerald Drefahl, CEO of FITT, a Baton Rouge personal training and physical therapy provider, started out looking for a better way to assess and address his clients’ needs. But after hearing some of FITT’s executive clients say they wanted to apply the same system to their employees, he realized he might have the basis for an entirely new business on his hands.

As Business Report details in a new feature, Drefahl founded Kenesics, which packages FITT’s principles and practices into a series of online courses for training, rehabilitation and corporate wellness professionals. Using proprietary software that provides data about the human body, it takes a program that might otherwise be delivered individually and makes it scalable.

Drefahl wants to expand rapidly, and that takes money. Innovation Catalyst, a local nonprofit that promotes and funds early-stage businesses, provided some of the necessary seed capital while helping him refine his business strategy, he says.

“I never wanted just a silent investor,” Drefahl says. “It became a way to align with people who believe what we believe.”

The Research Park Corporation, which runs the Louisiana Technology Park on Florida Boulevard, launched Innovation Catalyst in 2014 as a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The RPC provides operational funding, offices and administrative support, and donated $1.5 million to its nonprofit investment fund.

Innovation Catalyst is the latest iteration of an effort previously known as Regional Innovation Organization and Step One Ventures that has struggled to get off the ground. CEO Louis Freeman stepped in a little more than a year ago after previous CEO Jeanne Bayless resigned.

Some entrepreneurs and economic development professionals say there isn’t enough capital available for startups in the Capital Region, while others say there aren’t enough promising deals worth investing in. But Freeman says he isn’t sure there’s a problem with either side of the equation.

“There’s certainly no shortage of ideas, and there’s certainly no shortage of money,” he says. “The problem is that the expectations of the entrepreneurs are far different than the expectations of the investor.”

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